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14
Jan

Agrichemical Companies Sue to Halt Kauai Restrictions of GE Crops and Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 14, 2014) Agrichemical companies filed  a lawsuit to stop Kauai County from moving ahead with its new law to restrict genetically engineered (GE) agriculture and toxic pesticide applications near schools, hospitals, homes, and shorelines. As the first Hawaiian Island to pass restrictions on pesticides and GE agriculture, Kauai County saw an unprecedented outpouring of public support for Bill 2491. Despite numerous attempts by agrichemical companies to derail the bill, including personal attacks on councilmembers, and in the face of a veto by Mayor Bernard Carvalho, the residents of Kauai prevailed when the County Council chose to override the Mayor’s veto and make Bill 2491 law. Kauai’s action for a safe and healthy community was followed in Hawaii County by Bill 113, which restricts new GE crops. Efforts in Maui County are now underway to enact protections similar to Kauai’s.

kauaicornfieldsThe lawsuit, filed January 11 in U.S. District Court, attempts to block Bill 2491 from coming into law (it is currently set to go into effect 9 months after its passage), and was brought forward by agrichemical company giants DuPont, Syngenta, and Agrigenetics Inc., an affiliate of Dow Agrosciences. The suit does not come as a complete surprise to concerned residents on the island because agrichemical companies threatened litigation as early as the bill was introduced. Advocates say that this attack by the agrichemical industry proves that these companies were never interested in finding common ground, despite attempts by local leaders to reach a compromise.

“The ordinance is invalid,” said Syngenta spokesman Paul Minehart to Reuters. “It arbitrarily targets our industry with burdensome and baseless restrictions on farming operations by attempting to regulate activities over which counties in Hawaii have no jurisdiction.”

Bill 2491 mandates companies establish reasonable buffer zones around these sensitive sites in order to protect residents against the adverse impacts of pesticide drift. These simple, commonsense protections are intended simply to prevent incidents like the ones that occurred at Waimea Canyon Middle School in 2006 and 2007. After a number of complaints that pesticide sprayings were occurring while students were still in class, administrators and teachers sat down with Syngenta and secured an agreement from the company not to spray before school was out at 3:30 pm. Syngenta broke that promise, according to Maluhia Group, a coalition of Waimea Canyon Middle School staff, parents and community members. There’s even a YouTube video showing the event.  Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture investigated the incidents, but came to the conclusion that Cleome gynandra, known on the islands as “stinkweed”, was the main culprit. However, concerned residents are not convinced, as there have never been any recorded medical incidents of widespread poisoning by stinkweed.

One of the main arguments made by agrichemical companies is that Kauai County is preempted by state law in its ability to enact restrictions on pesticide use or GE agriculture. As Beyond Pesticides pointed out in a recent Pesticides and You article titled “State Preemption Law,” Hawaii is one of seven states that do not have regulations that would preempt local ordinances from enacting requirements more strict than the state’s. A group of attorneys from organizations including Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety have pledged to defend Kauai’s bill at no charge.

Beyond Pesticides continues to be an ardent supporter of Kauai’s commonsense protections from pesticides and their associated use on GE crops. Given the impending approval of GE crops designed to withstand applications of the highly toxic herbicide 2,4-D, these protections are more important than ever.

Despite industry claims to the contrary, the legacy of GE agriculture has not been increased crop yields and decreased pesticide use, but instead an exponential growth of herbicide resistant weeds that require increasingly toxic pesticides in order to control. Increasing the use of toxic pesticides requires counties where, as the agrichemical company’s lawsuit states, the “climate is uniquely conducive to Plantiffs’ business” to implement increased protections, particularly around schools where children learn, hospitals where the sick need to get better, and homes where people expect to live securely in good health.

For more information on the fight for pesticide protections in the Hawaiian Islands, see Beyond Pesticides’ past Daily News articles and read Beyond Pesticides’ testimony on Bill 2491. For more information on the failed promises of GE agriculture, read “Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market,” or see Beyond Pesticides’ website on Genetic Engineering.

Source: Reuters

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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13
Jan

With Legalization of Marijuana, Chemical-Intensive Production Practices Questioned

(Beyond Pesticides, January 13, 2013) As medical and recreational production of marijuana in the U.S. increases, new and complicated questions have risen over how to limit consumers’ exposure to pesticides through marijuana consumption. Many growers are facing limited institutional knowledge and economic forces that could lead to the unnecessary use of pesticides. States are also still wrestling with the adequate regulation of production and testing practices. Exposure to pesticides from marijuana consumption may also be more harmful than exposure through food consumption when consumed through inhalation. As marijuana consumption becomes more widely legalized, many are calling for stronger safety standards for marijuana production.

Alan Schreiber, Ph.D., President of the Agriculture Development Group, believes that the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington will lead to immense demand for pest prevention research. Currently, growers of marijuana lack institutional assistance from federal agencies or state agricultural extension services, which have limited understanding of marijuana production. There is a concern that the lack of field research and increased demand may lead to heavy pesticide use.

In Washington, the state will allow the equivalent of 46 acres to be grown for recreational use, a factor that Dr.. Schreiber says will drive most production indoors. Indoor cultivation will allow for the harvest of six crops per year. This type of production system could create a “green bridge” for pests to continuously shift from older to younger crops, which would lead to intense pest pressures.

“Virtually everything they have done in the past will not be permitted going forward,” Dr. Schreiber told the Capital Ag Press.

There is also confusion about what standards will apply to the production of marijuana. As an agricultural commodity, Worker Protection Standards (WPS) will apply. If it is considered a food crop, as it is used is some edible formulations, some pesticides such as tetramethrin cannot be used in greenhouses where plants are grown for food. There are also no pesticides tolerances currently set for marijuana by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because it’s illegal to grow under federal law.

States that have legalized marijuana for recreational and medical uses are still trying to determine how to best regulate pesticides used in its production. Colorado currently follows tobacco pesticide regulations to apply to marijuana production, and the packaging of the product must also label for the crop’s potency and any toxic pesticides or fungicides used in its cultivation. In Washington, over 200 pesticides have been registered by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) under chapter 15.58 RCW for use in the production, processing, and handling of marijuana.

Only some states out of the 20 states and the District of Columbia that allow medicinal marijuana use require testing for pesticides and mold. Oregon has recently mandated testing. However, questions still remain in Oregon about how often these tests should be performed and what levels of pesticides are acceptable, because there are no federal tolerances set for marijuana use. Maine currently only allows 25b minimum risk pesticides (under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act) to be used in medical marijuana production. In September the operator of four of Maine’s eight medical marijuana dispensaries was fined $18,000 for using pesticides on plants in violation of state law and program rules.

Pesticide use in marijuana production has clear human health implications. During a recent presentation at Humboldt State University, Jeffrey Raber, Ph.D., reported that a study he conducted found that up to 70 percent of the pesticide residues on a marijuana bud can transfer to the smoke being inhaled. This exposure scenario is unique in that marijuana can’t be washed before it is consumed and the body has no filters for things that are inhaled, unlike food that is digested. The Eureka Times-Standard reported Dr. Raber saying that about 10 percent of tests conducted on medicinal marijuana in his lab registered positive for pesticides, and in random samples more that 35 percent failed pesticide tests. This could indicate that as marijuana undergoes increased regulatory scrutiny exposure to pesticides through inhalation could decrease.

“I think all that says is we really, really need some serious regulations within California to help us clean up our supply, especially in the medical patient context,” Dr. Raber told the Times-Standard. “These are people that are immune-compromised, they’re undergoing chemotherapy, they’re very sick with antibacterial loads. We can’t be subjecting them to more of these types of potentially harmful contaminants when they’re looking to this as a medicine source.”

Current illegal production practices of marijuana have been linked to rodenticides being found in the tissue of the fisher, a cat size carnivore that is a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A study conducted by scientists from University of California, Davis found that the fishers’ habitat did overlap with illegal marijuana farms. The study notes that in 2008 alone law enforcement officials removed more than 3.6 million marijuana plants from federal and state public lands in California, including state and national parks. The study also found piles of bright green rodenticide pellets around the marijuana plants and along plastic irrigation lines.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has also used toxic pesticides to control illegal marijuana production. In 1985, the DEA used glyphosate in an operation designed to kill 10,000 marijuana plants grown illegally on federal lands in the Midwest. The DEA has also used 2,4-D and paraquat in the past to stop marijuana production, which Beyond Pesticides has consistently opposed, given the threat to human health and the environment.

As support for medical and recreational marijuana increases –a new poll says that 55 percent of Americans want marijuana to be legalized nationwide, stronger pesticide regulation of marijuana production will be needed. A survey conducted by MMJ Business Daily found that 43 percent of marijuana patients said they considered the availability of organic cannabis to be “critical” when they decide where to shop for medicine. Organic standards for marijuana production are important, especially for medicinal use, as inhalation is a very direct exposure scenario.

Currently, the only way to avoid eating food grown  with harmful synthetic pesticides by eating organic. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture program page.

Source: Capital Ag Press

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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10
Jan

Maine GE Labeling Bill Signed, Industry Pushes Federal Bill to Prohibit State Action

(Beyond Pesticides, January 10, 2014) A requirement to label genetically engineered (GE) foods in the state of Maine is set to become law. The bill, LD718, “An act to protect Maine food consumers’ right to know about genetically engineered food and seed stock,” was passed by the state legislature in July 2013 by a vote in the House of MaineRepresentatives of 141 to 4, and with the Senates’ unanimous approval. The bill was then sent to Governor Paul LePage (R-ME) and signed into law on Wednesday, January 8. Meanwhile, the conventional food industry is pushing legislation in Congress to prevent, or preempt, states from adopting laws requiring labeling of GE foods.

The Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA) praised the Maine law. “We are thrilled that Governor LePage has signed the GMO labeling bill,” said MOFGA’s executive director Ted Quaday. “The time was right for a diverse and collaborative effort to take hold and move the discussion forward. People want and have the right to know what’s in their food.” Maine is the second state —following the lead of Connecticut— to pass labeling requirements for GE foods.

Like Connecticut’s newly passed law, Maine’s GE bill, which contains a “trigger” clause, will only go into effect if five contiguous states, including the neighboring state of New Hampshire, approves a similar measure. The New Hampshire legislature will take up similar legislation this winter.

Governor LePage made a written promise in January 2013 to the people of Maine that he would sign the bill, however, as a Republican Tea Party favorite it was unclear whether he would fulfill that commitment. Among his first major initiatives, the governor pledged to roll back stronger state laws on environmental quality to more lenient federal standards and halt the ban on bisphenol-A, an endocrine disruptor in baby bottles.

Mainers have expressed overwhelming support for legislation to label GE foods, with 91% favoring this legislation according to a scientific Pan-Atlantic Poll conducted in the spring of this year. Nationwide, 93% of people want foods containing GE ingredients labeled, and around 75% of consumers are worried about the effects of GE food on people’s health, according to a New York Times poll.

With Connecticut and Maine now on board with GE labeling laws, we look to other states that may also pass similar legislation. Vermont may soon join the other northeastern states that have acted, and additional ballot initiatives in the West will also play out in 2014, as GE labeling proponents have begun collecting signatures in Oregon and Colorado. A national GE labeling bill also remains in both houses of Congress, but has yet to be voted on in committee in either the Senate or the House. National GE labeling efforts are being spearheaded by the Just Label It! campaign. Meanwhile, Politico reported yesterday that, “The Grocery Manufacturers Association, on behalf of the food industry, is pitching to Capitol Hill lawmakers a bill that would preempt any state mandatory GMO labeling requirement by creating a voluntary labeling standard. . .” The discussion draft of the legislation, which Politico published and industry may seek to attach to the Farm Bill on an Appropriations bill this month, would prohibit states from requiring GE food labeling legislation.

In the meantime, the best way to avoid food with GE ingredients is to buy organic. Under organic certification standards, GE organisms are prohibited. For this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

Source: Portland Press Herald

Image Source: MOFGA

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09
Jan

Trace Pesticide Residues from Conventional Ag Found on Organic Produce

(Beyond Pesticides, January 9, 2014) A recent CBC News analysis of Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) data finds that nearly half of the organic fresh fruits and vegetables tested across Canada between September 2011 and September 2013 contained trace pesticide residues. While the fact that any amount of pesticides, trace or not, is found in organic produce may be disconcerting, the data still show that pesticides residues at significantly higher levels are found on conventional  (chemical-intensive) counterparts. In addition to the serious health questions linked to residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, Beyond Pesticides, through its Eating with a Conscience database, shows that our food choices have a direct impact on the health of those who grow our food and the quality of our air, water, and land. The  analysis in Canada and similar findings in the U.S. raise serious ongoing questions about potential adverse effects from both chemical and genetic drift or trespass that have been ignored by regulators as inconsequential.

The analysis finds that of the 45.8 percent of organic samples that tested positive for some trace of pesticide, a smaller amount — 1.8 per cent — violate Canada’s maximum allowable limits for the presence of pesticides. Among non-organic samples, 78.4 percent contain pesticide residues, violating the allowable limits 4.7 percent of the time.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data from an earlier pilot study conducted between 2010 and 2011, which examined select samples of organic produce in various U.S. retail locations, yielded similar findings. Of the 571 samples taken between 2010 and 2011, 57 percent of the produce had no detected residues, but 43 percent contained some kind of pesticide residues, with four percent of these pesticide residues at levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pesticide tolerance cutoffs.

USDA released this pilot study in response to a 2010 audit of the National Organic Program by USDA’s Inspector General (IG) and later promulgated new residue testing standards for organic certifiers.

How Can Produce Be Organic and Still have Pesticides?

Many organic consumers may be scratching their heads as to how something that is labeled and approved as organic, be it in Canada or the U.S., could still be found to contain even trace amounts of pesticides. Quite literally, the answer for the majority of the pesticide residues is blowing in the wind.

“[EPA] establishes the maximum allowed levels of pesticides, or EPA tolerances, which may be present on foods. Although most EPA-registered pesticides are prohibited in organic production, there can be inadvertent or indirect contact from neighboring conventional farms or shared handling facilities. As long as the operator hasn’t directly applied prohibited pesticides and has documented efforts to minimize exposure to them, the USDA organic regulations allow residues of prohibited pesticides up to 5 percent of the EPA tolerance,” USDA explains in its Pesticide Residue Testing of Organic Produce study.

Canadian organic regulations differ slightly, but the same explanations and problems apply. “Pesticides can get onto organic produce through contamination of water or soil through pesticide spray drift from neighboring farms, and through contact with non-organic produce after harvest,” notes Rick Holley, an expert in food safety at the University of Manitoba, to CBC News.

Recognizing that the more egregious violations (those exceeding EPA tolerance levels) may reflect a need for greater enforcement of organic standards, the central problem is the abundant use of pesticides in commercial agriculture. In other words, pesticides do not obey arbitrary property lines or organic labels. The more pesticides in use in the environment, the greater the likelihood of all food eventually being contaminated at some point in the production and delivery line. This is especially true where different crops are grown in close proximity, allowing drift of chemicals from one crop to another.

Before organic consumers throw up their hands in defeat, however, it should be noted that the trace presence of pesticides on organic produce is, in fact, a central reason for supporting the growth of the organic sector. As Matthew Holmes, executive director of the Ottawa-based Canada Organic Trade Association explained to CBC News, “I think consumers are looking for not necessarily a zero level, but they’re looking to not contribute to the pesticide residues that are out there and they’re looking to reduce their exposure as much as possible. And I still think we’re seeing in this data that organic offers that.” At the same time, as organic grows and becomes an increasingly important expectation of consumers, pressure will increase to restrict chemical-intensive and genetically engineered production systems that impose hazards without the consent of those being exposed or penalties for those causing the unwanted pollution.

As Beyond Pesticides has emphasized through its support of the organic community and USDA organic certification process, consumer support for organic ensures that fewer pesticides are present in the environment. Buying organic supports an entire system that is conscious of the health of people, animals, and the environment. Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. From reduced exposure to pesticides for farmworkers to bans on unnecessary and dangerous uses of antibiotics in livestock feed, choosing organic means supporting the overall well-being and health of not only yourself and family, but everyone around you. It also supports those farmers who battle both the figurative winds of conventional farming adversity and the literal winds that lead to contamination of their organic crops.

To learn more about why it is critical to continue to support organic food production and maintain the integrity of the USDA organic label, as well as organic programs in other countries, please visit our Keep Organic Strong webpage. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page. To voice your support for organic integrity and comment on organic standards, practices, and allowable materials, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage.

Source: CBC News

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

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08
Jan

General Mills to Drop Genetically Engineered Ingredients in Original Cheerios

(Beyond Pesticides, January 8, 2014) Last week, General Mills announced that the company will eliminate genetically engineered (GE) ingredients from its mainstay original cereal Cheerios. The action recognizes the overwhelming consumer demand for GE-free products. The move was met with a range of reactions in the environmental community, from cheers of victory for the GE-free movement to calls for broader action affecting General Mills’ product line, right-to-know labeling of all foods produced with GE ingredients, and compensation of farmers by patent holders of genetically engineered material that contaminates their crops. The General Mills’ announcement does not apply to all of its Cheerio products, oCheeriosr its other products.

“Did we change Cheerios? No. Not really,” says a blog post by Tom Forsythe, vice president of Global Communications for General Mills. “Why change anything at all? It’s simple. We did it because we think consumers may embrace it,” he continues.

Some in the environmental community assert that this change is an attempt by the company to revive its image after spending millions of dollars to defeat state-level labeling initiatives in California in 2012, and Washington State in 2013. The ‘new’ Cheerios will contain the label “Not Made with Genetically Modified Ingredients.” General Mills’ move to label its most popular brand of cereal undercuts one of the main arguments used by opponents of GE labeling, namely that changing to non-GMO food ingredients is not economically feasible.

Despite the company’s tepid adjustment, the news does help to increase public awareness of GE food in the modern American diet, where nearly 80% of food items sold on supermarket shelves contain GE ingredients. This is important because without adequate labels consumers cannot determine whether the products they purchase do in fact contain these ingredients. And by and large, American consumers are calling for policies to adequately address the GE labeling issue. According to a New York Times poll conducted last year, 93% of people want foods containing GE ingredients labeled, and around 75% of consumers are worried about the effects of GE food on people’s health.

Last year, the grocery chain Whole Foods announced it would require labels on GE products by 2018, and supermarket rival Trader Joe’s already proclaims that it sells no products containing GE ingredients at its stores. Grassroots pressure pushed the introduction of GE labeling legislation in over 25 states last year, and while Maine and Connecticut passed labeling bills, they contain a “trigger clause” that delays implementation until similar legislation is passed in neighboring states, including one bordering state in the case of Connecticut, with an aggregate population of 20 million. Vermont may soon come on board, and additional ballot initiatives in the West will also play out in 2014, as GE labeling proponents have begun collecting signatures in Oregon and Colorado. A national GE labeling bill also remains in both houses of Congress, but has yet to be voted on in committee in either the Senate or the House.

Consumers have a right to know whether the foods they buy contain GE ingredients not only because of concerns over the safety of eating GE food, but also because of the direct and indirect effects of GE agriculture on the environment, wildlife, and the human health. In the Hawaiian islands, counties are taking a stand against GE agriculture that has led to widespread poisoning of sensitive environmental sites and entire communities. Associated with GE agriculture is the increased use of herbicides that GE crops are developed to tolerate. Repeated spraying of these herbicides, particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, destroys refuge areas for beneficial insects such as the Monarch butterfly, directly harms amphibians, and leads to resistance in weed species the GE technology was intended to control. The failure of GE technology was highlighted earlier this week as USDA released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for GE corn and soybeans engineered to tolerate the toxic herbicide 2,4-D. With glyphosate resistance rampant, the agrichemical industry continues to resort to increasingly toxic combinations of chemicals, despite the presence of organic management practices that are more protective of human health and the environment and produce the same yield. Thus, for a multitude of reasons, consumers have the right to know the ingredients in the products they are purchasing.

General Mills has shown that it is economically viable to change the label on its products and provide consumers with information about GE ingredients. With increased public pressure, the company may take a larger, more substantive step and apply this policy to all its products, and support policies that would require other protections from genetically engineered organisms. In the meantime, consumers can purchase foods produced without GE organisms by seeking out the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: GeneralMills.com, AlJazeera America

Image Source: Flikr

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07
Jan

Oregon Legislation To Restrict Home Use of Bee-Killing Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 7, 2014) An Oregon state representative, Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Portland), plans to introduce legislation in February that will effectively ban for home and garden use certain neonicotinoid pesticides implicated in mass bee deaths this summer. This legislation is part of the growing national effort to ban or restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Last year, the Save America’s Pollinators Act was introduced by Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to ban the use of neonicotinoids nationally.

Rep. Reardon’s legislation would add neonicotinoid pesticides dinotefuran, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam to Oregon’s restricted pesticide use list. Under Oregon’s pesticide administrative rules,restricted use pesticides can only be applied by licensed pesticide applicators. Pesticide dealers are also required to keep records of product sales of these pesticides and maintain sales records for at least three years. The legislation would also require the state to implement special training and testing to ensure licensed pesticide applicators know how to minimize risk to  pollinators. beecomb

“These are dangerous chemicals. People who aren’t willing to take the time and effort to become fully educated should look for alternatives,” Rep. Reardon told The Oregonian.

Though this legislation would limit the amount of neonicotinoid pesticides directly applied to lawns and ornamental plants, it does not address the sub-chronic effects neonicotinoid pesticides have on pollinators when the chemicals are used as a seed coating. Neonicotinoids are systemic, meaning that as the plant grows the pesticide becomes incorporated into the plant. When honey bees and other pollinators forage and collect pollen or nectar, or drink from what are termed “guttation” (water) droplets emitted from neonicotinoid-incorporated crops, they are exposed to sublethal doses of the chemical. At this level the pesticides don’t kill bees outright. Instead, they impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response.

A pilot study, co-released by Beyond Pesticides, found that 7 of 13 samples of garden plants purchased at top retailers in Washington DC, the San Francisco Bay Area and Minneapolis contain neonictinoids which that come from the use of treated seeds. This study is particularly alarming because homeowners who wanted to provide plant habit for pollinators may have unwittingly exposed them to harmful pesticides if they purchased plants at these garden stores.

This possible legislation comes after two massive bee deaths were recorded in two different Oregon towns in June. An estimated 50,000 bumblebees, likely representing over 300 colonies, were found dead or dying in Wilsonville which was the largest known incident of bumblebee deaths ever recorded in the U.S. After a preliminary investigation, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) confirmed that the massive bee die-off was caused by the use of the insecticide dinotefuran. Then, it was reported by The Oregonian that hundreds of bees were found dead after the same pesticide was used in the neighboring town of Hillsboro.

After these massive bee die offs, ODA placed temporary restrictions on the use of pesticides that contained dinotefuran. The rule even applied to licensed applicators and making an application of dinotefuran could have resulted in the revocation of an applicator’s license or the imposition of a civil penalty. However, this past November ODA removed these temporary restrictions and limited the ban on the use of dinotefuran and clothianidin specifically to linden trees, basswood, and other trees of the Tilia genus.

Beyond Pesticides through its BEE Protective campaign works with national and local groups to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes. As part of this campaign, Beyond Pesticides is working with consumers to demand that Lowes and Home Depot stop selling neonicotinoid pesticides and plants that are grown from neonicotinoid-treated seeds. You can sign our petition here. Beyond Pesticides is also a part ofa coalition-based national advertising campaign to raise awareness of pollinator declines and urge EPA to stop stalling by enacting substantive restrictions on the use of bee-harming pesticides. To support our efforts to restrict bee-toxic pesticides, visit save-bees.org and sign the petition to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Additionally, Beyond Pesticides’ 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities –People, pollinators and practices, will take place in Portland, Oregon April 11-12, 2014. The annual conference will be held at Portland State University in conjunction with Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions. Issues in Oregon, the northwest, and nationally, including pollinator protection, pesticide use in forestry, and GE labeling and contamination, will be key topics at the upcoming Forum and we hope to see you there! For more information, see the National Pesticide Forum website.

Source: The Oregonian

 All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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06
Jan

Environmentalists, Farmers Challenge USDA’s Call for the Deregulation of Crops with Genetically Engineered Tolerance to the Highly Toxic Herbicide 2,4-D

(Beyond Pesticides, January 6, 2014) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Friday released for public input its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which calls for the deregulation of genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans engineered to be tolerant to the toxic herbicide 2,4-D. These new varieties of GE corn and soybean, created partly due to proliferate weed resistance resulting from the widespread use of glyphosate (Roundup) on other GE crops, is set to usher in dramatic increases in 2,4-D use with associated health and environmental hazards, according to environmental scientists. The GE crops are being produced by Dow AgroSciences under the brand name “Enlist.”

According to Nichelle Harriott, senior scientist at the national environmental group Beyond Pesticides, “The engineered varieties will not only spawn new weed resistant strains, but contaminate the environment and increase the public health risks to cancer and Parkinson’s disease, especially in farmworkers and farming communities exposed to 2,4-D.”Yellow Corn

The failure of GE-glyphosate (Roundup) tolerant crops to live up to their promises is a main contributing factor behind the development of stacked varieties such as “Enlist,” which combines resistance to 2,4-D and glyphosate. So widespread is glyphosate resistance that EPA has granted emergency use exemptions for pesticides without registered uses in agriculture, like fluridone. One 2012 report shows that GE crops have been responsible for an increase of 404 million pounds of pesticide, or about 7%, in the U.S. over the first 16 years of commercial use of GE crops (1996-2011), which means that 2,4-D use is expected to increase dramatically in GE fields.

While USDA attempts to assure the public that 2,4-D is safe, the science has raised serious concerns about the safety of this herbicide, which was used as a key ingredient in “Agent Orange,” used to defoliate forests and croplands in the Vietnam War. Scientists around the world have reported increased cancer risks in association with its use, especially for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL). It is also neurotoxic, genotoxic, and an endocrine disruptor. Studies have also reported that occupational exposure to 2,4-D is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

The proposed deregulation of these GE crops is being met with criticism from farmers, environmentalists and other concerned groups. Similar to previous decisions to deregulate other varieties of GE soybeans, alfalfa, and sugar beets, safety advocates charge that USDA fails to take into account several scientifically-validated environmental concerns, such as the indiscriminate nature of GE gene flow among crops, a heavy reliance on faulty data, and a high degree of uncertainty in making safety determinations. Deregulation of 2, 4-D GE corn and soybeans also underplays the issue of 2,4-D drift that has been a documented problem to off-site locations, endangered species and non-target crops, as well as the threat of dioxin contamination.

The agency once again overlooks the problem of herbicide-resistant weeds (and insect resistance to engineered “plant incorporated protectants”) , and the widespread corruption of conventional seed varieties by GE strains, along with documented severe health and economic injury to non-GE and organic farmers and markets. In Southern states, glyphosate-resistant horseweed, ryegrass and pigweed are a concern for soybean farmers, while resistant horseweed and volunteer Roundup Ready soybeans have become problem weeds for Mississippi rice. In Australia, weed scientists have now documented cases of glyphosate resistance in rigid ryegrass across large areas and are encountering it in other weed species in different parts of the world.

Instead of chemical-intensive and genetically engineered strategies that exacerbate weed and insect problems, USDA should only allow sustainable, integrated pest management strategies, including organic practices, to minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most GE organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. These strategies can also help farmers get off the pesticide treadmill which constantly demands greater amounts of synthetic inputs.

“In the age of organic agriculture it is irresponsible to be introducing a failed technology reliant on 2,4-D with all its known hazards to human health and the environment,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: USDA

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03
Jan

Research on Corn Pest Finds No Economic Benefit to GE Corn in the Northeast

(Beyond Pesticides, January 3, 2014) A recent study on the European corn borer (ECB), a major corn pest, finds no significant difference in yield between genetically engineered (GE)Bt (ECB-resistant) corn and non-GE corn in the Northeast, where pest pressure has decreased. Considering the high cost of GE corn, researchers determine that farmers will see no benefits in terms of profit. The study, published in the journal Pest Management Science, examines the damage that ECBs cause to crops, comparing corn genetically engineered to express the insecticidal toxin Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) with non-Bt crops at 29 sites around Pennsylvania over three years.

The study concludes that although Bt corn hybrids reduced ECB damage in comparison to non-Bt crops, they found no difference in yields, explaining that because of higher seed costs they also “rarely improved profits.” Although researchers attribute the decline in ECB population to the adoption of Bt corn, the study does not address long-term insect resistance which can develop in fields after the introduction of GE crops and lead to an increased use in pesticides.

“With less ECB damage around, non-Bt hybrids in our tests yielded just as well as Bt hybrids, so the decline in ECB populations provides an opportunity for growers to generate greater profits by planting high-yielding non-Bt seed, which is much cheaper than Bt seed,” said Eric Bohnenblust, graduate student and co-author of the study, to Penn State News. “Planting more non-Bt corn will [also] reduce the potential for ECB to develop resistance to Bt toxins as corn rootworms have done in about a dozen states so far.”

The researchers suggest that farmers should consider planting non-Bt corn as a cost-cutting measure,and conclude that “Bt hybrids remain valuable control options.” However, there is  mounting evidence demonstrating insect resistance, crop contamination, and potential adverse impacts of GE crops to human health and the environment.

Indeed, in 2011 entomologists at Iowa State University published a study verifying the first field-evolved resistance of another corn pest, corn rootworm, to a Bt toxin. The study found the western rootworm’s ability to adapt was strongest in fields where Bt corn was planted for three consecutive years and suggested that insufficient planting of refuges may have contributed to the resistance. This study was cited by a group of 22 prominent entomologists who submitted formal comments to the EPA, identifying significant flaws in current practices for managing insect resistance to Bt corn and cautioning that failure to implement alternative measures would result in all forms of Bt losing its effectiveness. Similarly, a 2013 study by University of Illinois researchers found corn rootworm to be resistant to GE Bt corn within two of Illinois’ counties, causing severe damage to those crops.

The European corn borer causes severe damage to the corn in the larval stage. As larvae emerge from overwintering, they feed and tunnel within the tassel, ear, and stem forming cavities within the crop. This boring damage weakens the plant, diminishing yields as the plant becomes unable to transport water and nutrients through the damaged stalk. Previous research in Pennsylvania suggests that ECB was responsible for about a 5.5% yearly yield reduction in field corn. Extensive yield losses from reduced leaf area, broken stalked, dropped years, and stalk rot, caused by ECB and corn rootroom led to widespread use of Bt-corn. Research here suggests however, that these yield gains are no longer being made, and farmers should consider planting non-Bt corn.

Genetically engineered crops not only facilitate insect resistance but also threaten the sustainability of organic agriculture. There has long been a concern that EPA’s allowance of plant incorporated protectants (PIPs) with Bt would lead to the failure of a biological tool used in organic farming systems as an alternative to highly toxic synthetic inputs. Organic farmers have expressed concern since the introduction of PIPs in 2003 that the overuse of Bt, which is inevitable when Bt is genetically engineered into every cell of a plant, will lead to insect resistance and leave many farmers without an important tool of organic agriculture.

Organic agriculture is the last sustainable refuge from genetically engineered crops.  It represents an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, and mechanical production practices and natural inputs by strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity. For more reasons to support organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Why Organic page.

Source: Science Daily, Pest Management Science

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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02
Jan

Large End-of-Year Penalty for Pesticide Violation Amid EPA’s Record of Few Enforcement Actions

(Beyond Pesticides, January 2, 2014) Near the conclusion of 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement agreement with a Florida-based pesticide producer and distributor, Harrell’s LLC. Alleging multiple violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the agreement requires Harrell’s to pay a hefty civil penalty in the amount of $1,736,560.

Environmental_Protection_Agency_logoUnder FIFRA, the nation’s primary law governing the manufacture, distribution, and use of pesticides, a pesticide product cannot enter the U.S. marketplace without EPA registration and an approved label that conveys to intended users of the product critical information about its contents, methods and areas of application, and potential hazards. Ideally, the purpose of FIFRA is to ensure that no pesticides are produced, imported, distributed, sold, or used in a manner that pose an “unreasonable risk” to human health or the environment.

While there are a number of loopholes and weaknesses in this system, such as conditional registrations, that lead to toxic products entering the marketplace without a full understanding of the potential health hazards and environmental risks associated with those products, FIFRA’s protections are at their core dependent on diligent adherence to the registration and labeling rules.

Any product that does not adhere to the strict labeling standards is deemed “misbranded.”  As EPA explains in its Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO), “The FIFRA prohibition against the distribution or sale of misbranded pesticides is important because it helps ensure that end users and members of the public have the most accurate, up-to-date, and compliant information available about pesticides in the marketplace.”

According to the allegations in the CAFO, beginning as early as 2009, Michigan-state inspectors discovered multiple violations of FIFRA at the Harrell’s Michigan facility.  These violations included nine separate Harrell’s pesticide products missing key labeling information, such as precautionary statements, personal protection equipment requirements, user safety requirements, directions for use, environmental hazards statements, and storage and disposal directions.

A few year later in 2012, state-inspectors from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Alabama, Indiana, and two separate EPA regions discovered additional misbranding violations on Harrell’s products as well as products of Dow, Bayer, and DuPont for which Harrell acted as a supplemental distributor. The increased inspections revealed that in addition to the 21 pesticides products that had been distributed with absent or illegal labels, inspectors also discovered that Harrell’s operated an unregistered pesticide production facility. After Harrell’s ignored two EPA stop-sale orders for these violations (another violation under FIFRA in and of itself), EPA proceeded with the enforcement action.

No Label No Worries?

Think a missing label is no big deal? Taking a look at the Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDSs) for the 21 pesticide products that were found to have labels entirely absent or illegible on at least 365 separate occasions might change your mind. For example, Merit lists imidacloprid as its most prominent hazardous ingredient. A part of a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, even proper use of this pesticide presents significant dangers to beneficial insects, such as honeybees, which are facing unprecedented population decline. Couple that with its potential reproductive effects, toxicity to fish and other aquatic organisms and it becomes clear that a missing label presents significant hazards to both people and the environment.

The Numbers and the New Year

According to EPA’s Press Release, the civil penalty is one of the largest ever for an enforcement case under FIFRA. And while $1.7 is an impressive number in the realm of FIFRA civil penalties, EPA’s reported FIFRA enforcement actions for the year are disappointing. In 2013, EPA lists only three FIFRA-related civil cases and settlements on its enforcement webpage. Compare that to 2012’s whopping 24 actions or even 2011’s nine and the number seems even smaller.

Granted, the majority of FIFRA enforcement responsibilities are delegated to state authorities. Thus when smaller enforcement actions do arise, they often do not reach the desks of EPA’s enforcement agents, data compilers, or media relations staffers. Even within EPA there are most likely reporting inconsistencies and, of course, there is always the argument that a few big cases targeting national companies (such as Walmart) and levying significant fines have more impact than a bunch of smaller cases.

Recognizing all of these factors, the number—three—not $1.7 million, is one that should draw the attention of the public and invite a pensive pause.  In the realm of pesticide protective frameworks, FIFRA is not a strong law be any stretch of the imagination. It does not impose strong tracking and reporting requirements, it establishes relatively weak safety thresholds for a product’s entry into the marketplace, and, as demonstrated by the Harrell’s case, relies heavily on the producers and users of the pesticides to following instructions for any of its safety measure to work.

Without state authority and EPA oversight and enforcement, the public is placed in a perilous position. Beyond Pesticides applauds any enforcement actions that reduce illegal and unsafe exposures to pesticides, but advocates urge EPA to take a more dedicated role in ensuring that wherever possible, FIFRA violators, big or small, do not go unchallenged. Beyond Pesticides encourages EPA to set new safety standards for 2014 that utilize FIFRA’s protective frameworks to their fullest capacity and make our environment, homes, and families a little bit safer from pesticides.

Sources: EPA

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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24
Dec

Happy New Year from Beyond Pesticides!

Beyond Pesticides wishes our members and supporters a happy, healthy, and organic holiday season and New Year! Our Daily News is taking a holiday break and will return on Thursday, January 2, 2013 with renewed energy and vision to continue making real change in communities across the the U.S. and around the world.

We look forward to working with you to make 2014 a safe, pesticide-free year for you, your family, and your community at large. We would like to deeply thank our members and supporters for an amazing 2013 that was filled with so many accomplishments and milestones for the pesticide-free movement.

Support Beyond PesticidesYet, there are still many areas where our collective voice is needed to put pressure on decision makers to take action for the protection of human health and the environment. We plan to increase our efforts in 2014 to provide communities with the assistance that is needed to broaden the adoption of the exciting changes that are taking hold throughout the country. At the same time, we urge all those who are able to help us increase the strength of our voice and our assistance program by providing a charitable donation to Beyond Pesticides.

PAYFall2013imageWith a $150 donation, we send you our BEE Protective Kit, which includes our Habitat Guide and a Pesticide Free Zone sign and owner’s manual. You can also give the gift of membership or become a Beyond Pesticides member yourself! Membership in Beyond Pesticides provides you with a year-long subscription to Pesticides and You, our quarterly newsletter that gives in-depth discussion and analsis of the latest news, science, and policy on pesticide issues by Beyond Pesticides staff and experts in the field.

Our Fall 2013 Pesticides and You is now online. We hope you will read Poisoned Dreams, the story of the Frandsen family of Utah, who were poisoned by the pesticide business next-door to their home. Their story epitomizes the failure of regulators to adequately address the hazards associated with the cradle-to-grave impacts of pesticide use. The Frandsen’s did everything they could to find relief from those in government tasked with protecting human health, yet were met with indifference and disregard. Their message to all of us is a message for the protection of health and the environment.

Stories such as the Frandsen’s are why Beyond Pesticides works to change policies and practices that cause unnecessary harm. It is why we push to promote safer alternatives in the marketplace through organic practices. If safe, effective alternatives to pesticides are available, we can move beyond, as communities such as Takoma Park, MD, and Kauai County, Hawaii told us in 2013.

safegrowzone-markspec--01Takoma Park, MD, not subject to regressive state pesticide preemption laws, successfully passed a landmark ordinance restricting pesticide use on both public and private property. The policy was moved forward by two concerned moms, each fighting for the health and safety of their children. Their accomplishment inspires all of us to push for pesticide protections in our own communities in 2014. Beyond Pesticides is here to support you, and arm you with the facts on pesticide hazards and alternatives.

2491passedIn “The Garden Isle” of Kauai, Hawaii we saw a massive outpouring of support for new laws to rein in giant agrichemical companies that are wrecking the island and its inhabitant’s health. Limits on pesticide use and genetically engineered crop production will provide basic protections that agrichemical companies fought tooth and nail to prevent. And now, because of Kauai’s lead, Maui and Hawaii County (“The Big Island”) have taken their own steps towards increased protections from pesticides and genetically engineered crops. We’re up against powerful interests, but your actions can change the outcome.

beespostThe decline of pollinators reveals how high the stakes are in our efforts to protect the environment and food supply. We need your continued support in 2014 to get regulators, retailers, and politicians to take action and protect honey bees and other wild pollinators by stopping the unnecessary use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Beyond Pesticides launched the BEE Protective campaign in 2013 to educate the public and support local action aimed at protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes. And, we ran a full page ad in newspapers across the country with the message to regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency: “Bees can’t wait 5 more years. And neither can we“With the start of restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticide use in the European Union, and new evidence that these chemicals also harm the development of young children, it is imperative that EPA acts to restrict these pesticides for the sake of both pollinators and human healthtellretailers.

But when EPA does act, like the agency did on toxic rodenticides and children’s health earlier this year, we must stand up, defend, and support EPA efforts. Despite the agency’s determination that 12 “d-CON” rodenticide products pose “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment,” the manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser, made an almost unprecedented move and sued EPA to keep the products on store shelves. Beyond Pesticides is asking retailers this holiday season to care about kids, and stop the sale of toxic rodenticides that endanger children, pets, and wildlife.

organic-imageIn 2014, we should also strengthen and maintain the integrity of those government programs that support our vision for a healthier future. Your voice in organic made a difference this year, as the widespread public outcry from the organic community led to the phase-out of the antibiotic tetracycline in organic apple and pear production. Yet, recent changes to the sunset review process puts organic integrity at risk. Please continue to follow Beyond Pesticides’ actions and alerts on organic agriculture and provide a public comment at the next NOSB meeting, to be held April 29-May 1, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. Your continued support will be critical in helping us keep the organic label strong.

Beyond Pesticides brings all of our work together and connects intimately with scientists, activists, and politicians in local communities through our National Pesticide Forum. The 31st National Pesticide Forum, held in 2013 at the University of New Mexico, brought together top national scientists with local and national activists to craft solutions and catalyze networks to advance positive health and environmental policy and change. If you haven’t read or viedrhayeslabwed the keynote address, “Protecting Life: From Research to Regulation“ by Dr. Tyrone Hayes, we strongly encourage you to take the time.

Be aware, Dr. Hayes work is under threat due to exceedingly high fees from his university’s Office of Laboratory and Animal Care. In response, Beyond Pesticides launched The Fund for Independent Science in 2013 to support Dr. Hayes’ work to protect life from harmful chemicals. To date, Beyond Pesticides has helped to raise $112,000 to support Dr. Hayes research. In addition to your support of Beyond Pesticides’ program, please consider a pledge to support independent science so that Dr. Hayes’ critical work can continue throughout 2014.

safethedateIn 2014, the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Advancing Sustainable Communities –People, pollinators and practices, will take place in Portland, Oregon at Portland State University. With so many issues rising up in need of action in Oregon that are intimately connected to the national movement, including pollinator protection, pesticide use in forestry, GE labeling and contamination, we hope to see you there. Stay tuned to the National Pesticide Forum website for updates on speakers and the schedule of events.

Thank you all again for raising your voice for health in 2013, we’re so excited to see what we can accomplish with your support in the New Year.

 All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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23
Dec

Fed To Require Strengthened State Protection from Nonpoint Pesticide Pollution

Beyond Pesticides, December 23, 2013) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in a Federal Register notice has found that the state of Oregon’s program to reduce nonpoint coastal pollution is inadequate. Both federal agencies state that Oregon’s program does not adequately protect streams that provide habitat for Coho Salmon, an endangered species, and drinking water from herbicides that are aerially sprayed by lumber companies. This notice comes just after a recent report was released by Beyond Toxics on the health and environmental problems caused by aerial herbicide application on timber forests near Triangle Lake.trianglelakeoregon

EPA and NOAA’s proposed disapproval action of Oregon’s Coastal Nonpoint Program finds that the state has failed to adequately protect certain waterways within the state. Under the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments (CZARA) of 1990, states are required to submit an approvable Costal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program to NOAA and EPA. In 1998, federal agencies approved the Oregon Nonpoint Program with conditions that the state meet certain water pollution issues. This proposed disapproval action is part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Northwest Environmental Advocates in 2009, which charged Oregon has failed to meet the conditions of the Oregon Nonpoint Program’s approval. The federal agencies specifically found that the state did not meet the required conditions in three areas –storm water management, pollution from drain and leaky septic systems, and forestry practices.

In the area of forestry practices, the federal agencies found that Oregon’s forest practice rules, which require buffer zones for most pesticide applications, did not address aerial applications of herbicides on non-fish bearing streams. These streams comprise a significant portion of the total stream length in the coastal nonpoint management area. For small, non-fish bearing streams, Oregon’s coastal nonpoint program submission relies on the state’s Pesticide Control Law at ORS 634, OAR 603-57, which requires best management practices set by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). However, the disapproval action states that as a result of a 2007 lawsuit, which enforces a legal requirement that EPA consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), certain herbicides registered under FIFRA have been found through recent biological opinions (BiOps) to jeopardize certain listed endangered species.

The proposed disapproval action suggests that Oregon should expand its Pesticide Stewardship Partnership (PSP) monitoring program to watersheds that are within costal nonpoint management areas. The federal agencies are also encouraging Oregon to design its monitoring program in consultation with EPA and NMFS so that it generates data that are also useful for EPA pesticide registration reviews and new BiOps.

This proposed disapproval action also opens the agriculture conditions of the Oregon Coastal Nonpoint Program, which were approved in 2004, for public comment. According to the agencies, there is concern that water quality may be impaired from agricultural contaminants, such as nutrient and pesticide runoff, due to insufficient riparian buffers.

This proposed disapproval action comes just after Beyond Toxics released its report, Oregon’s Industrial Forests and Herbicide Use: A Case Study of Risk to People, Drinking Water and Salmon, which is an in-depth analysis of industrial forestry pesticide application records for the State of Oregon. The report focuses on the use of herbicides on 184,320 acres of private industrial and state forestlands surrounding Triangle Lake, a rural area in western Lane County, Oregon.

In 2011, atrazine and 2,4-D were found in the urine of residents around Triangle Lake. After these incidents, state and federal agencies launched the Highway 36 Corridor Public Health Exposure Investigation. The investigation resulted in the Oregon State Forester requiring pesticide applicators to turn over three years of forestry pesticide spray records from private and state timber operations, to which Beyond Toxics was given access. Beyond Toxics’ report contains several alarming findings. The report found that chemical regulations under the Oregon Forest Practices Act are weaker than regulations in Washington and Idaho. Unlike its neighboring states, Oregon has no spray buffers around homes, schools and farms, and has no protections of groundwater. The report also finds that the number of aerial sprays and pounds of pesticides applied per acre increased from 2009 to 2011, and that aerial sprays occurred directly over headwaters of protected Coho Salmon streams.

Even more troubling, the report finds that applicators use tank mixes of herbicides that contain two to five active ingredients and adjuvant products, despite a lack of understanding about synergistic effects of multiple chemicals combined and released into the environment. The report also strongly connects the pesticides found in the urine of Triangle Lake residents in 2011 with pesticides used in aerial applications. According to the report, the  pounds of 2, 4-D and atrazine applied by aerial spray increased by 80 percent and 73 percent in 2011.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for healthier and more environmentally friendly forestry practices. On a promising note, the U.S. Forest Service, the other major timber grower in Oregon, gave up nearly all herbicide use in the northwest back in the 1980s. Making this transition is economically possible, according to Jim Furnish, who managed the Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon in the 1990s. “It was more costly, more labor intensive. But forestry in Oregon is profitable under many different scenarios,” said Mr. Furnish, who later became deputy chief of the Forest Service. “The Forest Service just saddled itself to a different horse and rode off into the future.”

Source: The Oregonian

Image Source: Wikipedia.org

 All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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20
Dec

Bee-Killing Pesticides Damage Children’s Brain and Nervous System, Says European Authority

(Beyond Pesticides, December 20, 2013) The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced on Tuesday that pesticides linked to honey bee deaths worldwide may also damage human nervous systems —in particular the brain, and recommended that the European Commission lower the guidance levels of acceptable exposure until more research is conducted. This new determination heightens the call to ban the use of these toxic chemicals in the U.S., following the lead of the European Union (EU).

EFSA found that two commonly used chemicals “may adversely affect the development of neurons and brain structure associated with functions such as learning and memory” particularly of children. The recommendation focuses on two chemicals —acetamiprid and imidacloprid— in a relatively new class of insecticide called neonicotinoids. Three chemicals in this class were recently placed under a two-year ban in the European Union (EU) for uses on flowering crops known to attract honey bees.

The move stems from a recent review of research on rats which found, “Neonicotinoids may adversely affect human health, especially the developing brain.” Researchers who exposed newborn rats to one of these chemicals —imidacloprid— found they suffered brain shrinkage, fewer nerve signals controlling movement, and weight loss. Another study on rats found that exposure to the other neonicotinoid —acetamiprid— caused delayed responses to startling sounds, weight loss, and reduced survival rates.

In its decision, EFSA recommends that the acute reference dose —the amount ingested over a day that does not demonstrate appreciable health risks— be cut by three quarters for acetamiprid and a quarter for imidacloprid. Additionally, the acceptable daily intake—the amount ingested over a lifetime without appreciable risk—should be cut by two thirds for acetamiprid.

Imidacloprid has been banned in the EU for use on certain flowering crops since December 1, after EFSA determined it, and two other neonicotinoids, pose an unacceptable risk to pollinators. Several studies leading to the ban have demonstrated the impact neonicotinoid pesticides have on the navigation, foraging, learning, and immune health of honeybees.

It is commonly cited that bees are exposed to the poison when dust from pesticide-coated seeds mixed with lubricants, such as talc, escape from mechanical seed planters. But that’s not the only and perhaps most hazardous route of exposure. Neonicotinoids are systemic, meaning that as a coated seed grows into a plant the pesticide becomes incorporated into the plant. When honey bees and other pollinators forage and collect pollen or nectar, or drink from what are termed “guttation” (water) droplets emitted from neonicotinoid-incorporated crops, they are exposed to sublethal doses of the chemical. At this level the pesticides don’t kill bees outright. Instead, they impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response.

Unfortunately, despite strides in research demonstrating the effect of neonicotinoid exposure on honey bees, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to take action. While EPA has made recent labeling changes to try to reflect pollinator concerns, beekeepers widely agree that they do not go far enough in bee protection. Similarly, although beekeepers have voiced their concerns about sublethal exposures, EPA has only taken steps to address acute bee poisonings, which they say are primarily caused by dust plumes from seed coatings. Manufacturers are working to reformulate the seed coating technology to control dust, but EPA has made no move to restrict the use of the chemicals which are conclusively demonstrated to cause bee deaths through sublethal exposure.

In March 2013, Beyond Pesticides. Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, beekeepers, environmental and consumer groups filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the EPA for its failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. The lawsuit seeks to suspend the registrations of insecticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees. The suit challenges EPA’s oversight of these bee-killing pesticides, as well as the agency’s practice of “conditional registration,” which leave critical health and environmental questions unanswered, and labeling deficiencies.

With the support of over 60 organizations, Beyond Pesticides has also helped launch a coalition-based national advertising campaign to raise awareness of pollinator declines and urge EPA to stop stalling by enacting substantive restrictions on the use of bee-harming pesticides.

To support our efforts to restrict bee-toxic pesticides. visit save-bees.org and sign the petition to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. For additional information on the decline of honey bees and other wild pollinators, and a history of our efforts to get EPA to act, visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage.

Source: European Food Safety Authority, The Guardian, The New York Times

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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19
Dec

Environmental and Farm Groups Support Beekeepers’ Challenge of Newest Bee-Toxic Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, December 19, 2013) Environmental and farm groups, including Beyond Pesticides, came together to file a legal brief in support of the nation’s major beekeeping associations’ lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The beekeepers, including the Pollinator Stewardship Council, American Honey Producers Association, National Honey Bee Advisory Board, and the American Beekeeping Federation, are requesting that a federal court vacate EPA’s decision to register sulfoxaflor, a new chemical known to be highly toxic to bees and considered in the same chemical class of the controversial insecticides known as neonicotinoids, which have been linked to bee decline.

According to the Friend of the Court (Amicus curiae) brief, filed by the Center for Food Safety on behalf of the organizations, “Scientists have linked the drastic declines in honey bee and other pollinator populations to systemic pesticides, and more specifically, to a category of systemic pesticides known as neonicotinoids. Sulfoxaflor is a systemic pesticide with the same mode of action as neonicotinoids, that EPA determined is ‘very highly toxic’ to bees. EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor will introduce yet another systemic and highly toxic insecticide into the environment, intensifying the ecological crises of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and other pollinator losses.”

The brief further explains that EPA failed to analyze sulfoxaflor’s impacts, particularly in light of the environmental stressors already faced by pollinator populations. “EPA’s decision considers only the alleged benefits of sulfoxaflor, while wholly ignoring the significant costs that registration will have on the agricultural economy, food security, and the environment,” the brief continued. “As such, EPA failed to show that the registration of sulfoxaflor will not cause any ‘unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.’”

In May 2013, EPA approved the full registration of sulfoxaflor, which the agency classifies as highly toxic to honey bees, despite warnings and concerns raised by beekeepers and environmental groups that sulfoxaflor will further endanger bees and beekeeping. Several comments were submitted to EPA by concerned beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups, including Beyond Pesticides, stating that approval of a pesticide highly toxic to bees would only exacerbate the problems faced by an already tenuous honey bee industry and further decimate bee populations. EPA, however, dismissed these concerns and instead pointed to a need for sulfoxaflor by industry and agriculture groups to control insects no longer being controlled by increasingly ineffective pesticide technologies.

Not satisfied that their concerns were properly addressed by EPA before sulfoxaflor’s registration was granted, beekeepers filed suit in July 2013 against EPA to reverse the registration decision. This suit comes as the beekeeping industry across the country continues to struggle for survival, and faces the costly effects of pesticides upon their businesses. The beekeepers’ case, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco by Earthjustice, is Pollinator Stewardship Council et al. v. U.S. EPA  (Case No. 13-72346).

In March 2013, Center for Food Safety filed a separate groundbreaking lawsuit over two neonicotinoid pesticides – clothianidin and thiamethoxam, allowed in the U.S. despite growing evidence of their harm to bees and increasing action against them in other countries. This lawsuit challenges the agency’s failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides, and seeks suspension of the two neonicotinoid insecticides, which have repeatedly been identified as highly toxic to honey bees, clear causes of major bee kills and significant contributors to the devastating ongoing mortality of bees.

Beekeepers have experienced honey bee losses of over 40 percent over the 2012/2013 winter period, with some beekeepers reporting losses of over 70 percent, far exceeding the normal rate of 10 to15 percent. Some have even been driven out of business. Current estimates of the number of surviving hives in the U.S. show that these colonies may not be able to meet the future pollination demands of agricultural crops. Given the global phenomenon of bee decline and the recent precautions taken in the European Union regarding bee health with the two-year suspension of neonicotinoid pesticides known to be highly toxic to bees, environmental and farm groups believe it is irresponsible of EPA to allow yet another chemical that is a high potential hazard to bee health into the environment.

The following groups joined in support of the Friend of the Court brief:  Beyond Pesticides; Center for Food Safety; Center for Environmental Health; Defenders of Wildlife; Friends of the Earth; Maine Organic Gardeners and Farmers Association; Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service; National Family Farm Coalition; Northeast Organic Farming Association, Interstate Council; Northeast Organic Farming Association, Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association, New York Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association, Rhode Island Chapter, Inc.; Pesticide Action Network of North America; Sierra Club.

Bee Protective: For additional information on what you can do to protect pollinators, visit Beyond Pesticides Bee Protective webpage.

Source: Center for Food Safety

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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18
Dec

Campaign Urges Walmart to Discontinue Rodent Poison Products EPA Wants Banned

(Beyond Pesticides, December 18, 2013) A national environmental group is supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to protect children by asking national retailers, including Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Lowe’s, to make the holidays safer for children and stop selling dangerous d-CON rodent bait products. Determined to present unreasonable risks to children and the environment by EPA, the 12 slated-for-cancellation products contribute to the thousands of rodenticide poisonings of children each year. The manufacturer of d-CON products is using a legal tactic to allow the continued sale of the 12 d-CON tellretailersproducts, despite an EPA action to ban them.

“Walmart and other major retailers should immediately discontinue the sale of these toxic mouse and rat poisons. There are effective alternatives available that do not put children, pets, and wildlife at danger of poisoning and even death,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

Early in 2013, EPA issued its Notice of Intent to Cancel the registration of 12 rodenticide products manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser LLC after the company refused to adopt voluntary risk mitigation measures established in 2008. The mitigation measures require products to use bait stations and secured bait forms, instead of loose baits which children can more readily access, as well as eliminating the most toxic and persistent active ingredients. On March 6, 2013, the company challenged EPA’s decision, delaying for potentially years a ban that otherwise would have taken effect on March 7, 2013. This was the first time in more than 20 years that a company declined to implement EPA risk mitigation measures for pesticide products.

Between 1993 and 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers logged between 12,000 to 15,000 poison exposure reports of children under the age of six from mouse and rat baits.

Beyond Pesticides urges families with small children to utilize alternative measures to prevent rodent problems, including sealing gaps around the doors by replacing worn thresholds and weather stripping, and installing door sweeps, as well as caulking openings around water pipes, electric wires, cables, and vents. The group notes that there are many baits traps on the market that do not utilize toxic chemicals.

While some local stores and national retailers have taken steps to remove the slated-for-cancellation d-CON products from their shelves, there is concern that more needs to be done to ensure that these dangerous products do not fall into the wrong hands or mouths. National retailers are being asked to the lead and establish policies to stop sales of the 12 dangerous d-CON products and ensure that regional stores pull these products from shelves.

Background on Rodenticide Cancellations:

EPA is confident that it will prevail in the hearing initiated by the registrant, but now has the added burden of defending to a judge its decision that continued exposures of d-CON products to children, pets and wildlife pose unreasonable risks. According to EPA, of the nearly 30 companies that produce or market mouse and rat poison products in the U.S., Reckitt Benckiser is the only one that has refused to adopt the new safety measures. The company will argue to continue selling its d-CON poisons as loose pellets and pastes, and other toxic formulations. The agency is advising consumers to be aware that d-CON products subject to the ban may be available for sale by some retailers during the course of the hearing. For a list of the d-CON products the EPA is working to ban, visit: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/mice-and-rats/cancellation-process.html#cancellation.

In 2008, EPA released its final risk mitigation decision for ten rodenticides, which outlined new measures it said will help protect children and the public from accidental poisonings as well as to decrease exposures to pets and wildlife from rodent-control products. EPA is requiring that ten rodenticides used in bait products marketed to consumers be enclosed in bait stations, making the pesticide inaccessible to children and pets, and is also prohibiting the sale of loose bait, such as pellets, for use in homes. Rodenticide products containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum are known to pose the greatest risk to wildlife and will no longer be allowed to be sold or distributed in the consumer market. However, use by professional applicators will be permitted, and bait stations will be required for all outdoor, above-ground uses for products containing these ingredients. EPA says this will reduce the amount of product in the environment, providing additional protection for wildlife from poisonings by these more toxic and persistent products. However, many wildlife poisonings do not come from direct contact with the bait. These rodenticides have been involved with the poisonings of federally listed threatened and endangered species, for example the San Joaquin kit fox and the Northern spotted owl. Rodents can feed on poisoned bait multiple times before death, and as a result their carcasses contain residues that may be many times the lethal dose. Poisonings occur when predators or scavengers feed on these poisoned rodents.

While these measures, taken to protect the residential consumer and children, are commendable, there are several shortcomings. Human and wildlife exposures to these toxic chemicals, though slightly minimized, would nevertheless continue because of their continued availability for use in agricultural production and to pest control operators. Pest control operators will still be allowed to use these chemicals in homes, at their discretion, which means residential exposures continue, albeit at slightly lower levels. These measures also do not apply to rodenticide field uses, or to tracking powder products, which may utilize any of the ten rodenticides, and thus continue to impact residential consumers and non-target wildlife.

Beyond Pesticides believes that integrated pest management (IPM) is a vital tool that aids in the adoption of non-toxic methods to control rodents and facilitates the transition to a pesticide-free (and healthier) world. It offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce pesticide use and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products that are used. Sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and biological control, pest population monitoring are some IPM methods that can be undertaken to control rodents. For more information on IPM, contact Beyond Pesticides or visit our IPM program page.

For more information, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/rodenticides.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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17
Dec

Beyond Pesticides’ Decade-Long Campaign Leads FDA to Bar Antibacterial Soaps

(Beyond Pesticides, December 17, 2013) A new rule proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps, body washes, and other consumer goods to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and more effective than regular bar soap in order to remain on the market. This announcement, though long-delayed, represents a positive step towards reining in the unnecessary use of antibacterial chemicals at a time when top-level government scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have asserted that we’ve reached “the end of antibiotics.” With the publication of its article The Ubiquitous Triclosan: A common antibacterial agent exposed in 2004, Beyond Pesticides began a campaign to ban triclosan because of it cross resistance with antibiotics, endocrine disrupting effects, and lack of benefits.

Bubbles in orange liquid soap“Numerous studies have shown that antibacterial soaps cause more harm than any of their perceived benefits,” said Nichelle Harriott, staff scientist  at Beyond Pesticides. “For the protection of human health and the environment, we urge the FDA to move quickly to get these products off of the market.”

FDA’s new rule, announced Monday, will be open for public comment for 180 days and manufacturers will have one year to submit new data on their products. FDA hopes to finalize its rule and determine whether antibacterial products can be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by September 2016. “Our goal is, if a company is making a claim that something is antibacterial and in this case promoting the concept that consumers who use these products can prevent the spread of germs, then there ought to be data behind that,” said Sandra Kweder, M.D., deputy director of the Office of New Drugs in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “We think that companies ought to have data before they make these claims.”

Many companies have already recognized the hazards associated with triclosan and have taken action to remove the chemical from their products. See the companies that have signed the Triclosan-free pledge to stop the use and/or sale of Triclosan-containing consumer products (non-prescription) and recognize the harm posed to human health and the environment by triclosan.

Triclosan and its chemical cousin triclocarban are among the 22 active ingredients subject to the new rule, which comes nearly 40 years after the agency first began evaluating these chemicals. While many major manufacturers, including Johnson and Johnson and Proctor and Gamble, have already announced their intent to eliminate triclosan from their products, the chemical still remains widespread in a number of consumer goods. Though Colgate Palmolive announced in 2011 that it would reformulate many of its products to take out triclosan, it has refused to change the formula for its mainstay Colgate Total brand toothpaste. Toothpaste containing triclosan is not subject to this rulemaking as FDA has indicated that the chemical is effective as an anti-gingivitis ingredient.

Peer-reviewed scientific studies have revealed a laundry list of adverse impacts resulting from the cosmetic use of antibacterial soaps. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It has also been shown to alter thyroid function, and other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in umbilical cord blood and human milk. The CDC estimates that triclosan is present in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with concentrations that have increased by 50% since 2004. Studies even show that triclosan can react with the chlorine in tap water to form chloroform at rates of exposure considered significant by the authors of the research.

In 2012, researchers from the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and the University of Colorado found that triclosan impairs muscle function in fish and mice and stated that the results they found show “strong evidence that triclosan could have effects on animal and human health at current levels of exposure.” Allison Aiello, Ph.D., at University of Michigan presented her research on triclosan to the 30th National Pesticides Forum at Yale University.  Issac Pessah, Ph.D., co-author of the muscle function study and chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences  at UC Davis spoke at Beyond Pesticides 31st National Pesticide Forum. His talk in its entirety can be viewed here.

A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geologic Survey found that greater than one third of U.S. public water utilities contain detectible levels of triclosan. A study published earlier this year in Environmental Science and Technology found that when present in streams, triclosan alters bacterial communities and increases bacterial resistance. Research from the University of Minnesota published in January of this year found triclosan and its toxic derivatives building up in the sediment of freshwater lakes.

While FDA regulates the use of triclosan and other antibacterials in soaps, washes, deodorants and other similar consumer goods, EPA regulates the use of triclosan as a pesticide, such as in anti-bacterial impregnated products like clothing or pencils. Both agencies indicate that they are working closely with each other “to ensure government wide consistency in the regulation of the chemical,” according to FDA’s press release. EPA’s registration review on triclosan is still expected to be completed this year.

As these new rules are being finalized, Beyond Pesticides continues to urge concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge  to stop using triclosan. Since the rule won’t go into effect until at least 2016, make sure to continue to read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. You can also encourage your local schools, government agencies, and businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution that commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan. See Beyond Pesticides Triclosan webpage for additional information.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: FDA, CNN

 

 

 

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16
Dec

FDA Moves to Limit Some Antibiotic Uses in Livestock

(Beyond Pesticides, December 16, 2013) A new rule published by the Food and Drug (FDA) will limit the ability for food producers to give livestock antibiotics for subtherapeutic purposes. These new regulations come after decades of pressure from environmental and public health groups to limit the nontherapeutic use of these drugs in animal production. Though these regulations are an important step in the right directions, some are critical that loopholes still exist which could make these new rules less effective than they need to be.

FDA’s new rules on antibiotics ask drug manufactures to change the label of antibiotic drugs so that farmers will no longer be able to use them to promote the growth of livestock. Currently subtherapeutic doses of penicillin and tetracycline are typically added directly into animal feed and water. The new rule also requires that licensed veterinarians supervise the use of antibiotics, meaning farmers and ranchers would have to obtain prescriptions to use the drugs for their animals. Currently, farmers can go to feed stores and buy antibiotics over the counter with no regulatory oversight.

cow mountain

These new FDA rules are an important step forward to better regulate the use of antibiotics, however loopholes within the rules could limit their effectiveness. It is possible that producers can keep using the same low doses of antibiotics and claim they are needed to keep animals from getting sick. According to U.S. Representative Louise M. Slaughter, (D-NY), sponsor of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (sponsored  by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in the U.S. Senate in S.1256),  the European Union tried to stop companies from using antibiotics to make farm animals bigger, and companies continued to use antibiotics for disease prevention. She said antibiotic use only declined in countries like the Netherlands when they instituted limits on total use and fines for noncompliance.

These new rules come after decades of pressure from environmental and public health groups. The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) published Agencies Have Made Limited Progress Addressing Antibiotic Use in Animals in 2011, concluding that federal agencies lacked data and understanding of antibiotic resistance. A recent report,  Industrial Food Animal Production in America: Examining the Impact of the Pew Commission’s Priority Recommendations, followed five years after the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP) released its previous investigative report, which called for the phase out and ban of subtherapeutic uses of antibiotics in industrial food animal production. In 2011, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen, and Union of Concerned Scientists filed a lawsuit over the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics in livestock. Because of this lawsuit Judge Theodore Katz ordered FDA to notify drug manufacturers of its intention to revoke approval for uses of penicillin and tetracycline to promote growth in livestock in 2012. In 2011 the FDA even appeared as though it was backing away from this issue by announcing that it was terminating a rulemaking process that began in 1977 to reduce low dose antibiotic feeding.

The concerns that environmental and public health groups have is that by not regulating the use of antibiotics FDA placed the public at risk of increased pools of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. These resistant superbugs threaten at least two million people each year and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.  Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection. The use of subtherapeutic does of antibiotics in livestock is also only one example of the misuse of antibiotics. The wide use of triclosan, an antibacterial used in antimicrobial soaps and personal care products, also has shown to increase bacterial resistance.

The practice of feeding subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics began in the 1950’s after researchers discovered that adding these drugs to livestock feed increased weight gain of animals. This practice has increased as livestock production became more industrialized through the use of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). CAFOs often have unsanitary conditions produced by packing excessive numbers of animals into an unnatural environment. This process increases the risk of infectious disease outbreaks that would be averted under living conditions appropriate to each species.

Under the Organic Foods Production Act, (OFPA) certified USDA livestock producers cannot use growth promoters and hormones, whether implanted, ingested, or injected, including antibiotics. Additionally, certified USDA Organic livestock producers cannot use subtherapeutic does of antibiotics, meaning they cannot administer low-dose antibiotic treatments that are not for the purpose of treating sick livestock. The standards also require that producers maintain living conditions that prevent infectious diseases from becoming established and adversely affecting livestock health.

There are still some limited uses of antibiotics, tetracycline, and streptomycin, in organic apple and pear production to control fire blight. However, in April 2013, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted to uphold the 2014 expiration date for tetracycline and will vote on whether to extend the use of streptomycin or uphold its 2014 expiration date at the upcoming NOSB meeting in San Antonio on May 1, 2014.

Through supporting organic agriculture and fighting for even stronger organic standards, consumers have the power to make change happen on important issues. For more information on what you can do to advance organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong website, which provides a number of resources for people to participate in the organic review process.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: New York Times

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13
Dec

Unregulated Contaminants Found Widespread in U.S. Drinking Water

(Beyond Pesticides, December 13, 2013) A recent survey conducted by researchers at the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found traces of 18 unregulated chemicals in drinking water from more than one third of U.S. water utilities. Of the 21 total chemicals found, researchers discovered among them 11 perfluorinated chemicals, an herbicide, two solvents, caffeine, an antibacterial chemical, a metal and an antidepressant. Preliminary findings were presented by scientists at an annual toxicology conference held by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry last month in Nashville.

Federal researchers took samples from 25 U.S. utilities from around the nation who voluntarily participated in the study, providing samples of treated and untreated water. Disturbingly, 18 of the chemicals found are not regulated under the Safe Water Drinking Act, meaning utility companies are not required to treat, limit, or even monitor for their presence.

“The good news is the concentrations are generally pretty low,” said USGS research hydrologist Dana Kolpin, PhD. to Environmental Health News. “But,” he continued “there’s still the unknown. Are there long-term consequences of low-level exposure to these chemicals?”

While there is a paucity of data on some of the contaminants, regulated chemicals such as atrazine, metolachlor, triclosan  found in drinking water samples have been demonstrably linked to serious human and environmental health problems. Atrazine, for example, is used nationwide to kill broadleaf and grassy weeds, primarily in corn crops. It has been shown to be harmful to humans, mammals, and amphibians even when the amount used is less than the government allows. Atrazine is also associated with infertility, low birth weight, and abnormal infant development in humans. The chemical’s use is widespread, but for agriculture its use in concentrated in the Midwest farmbelt.

In addition to atrazine, triclosan, caffeine, metolachlor, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and nine other perfluorinated compounds, which are used in a variety of industrial processes including production of nonstick or stain resistant products, were found in the drinking water supply. 251 chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and microbes measured were also detected in drinking water of more than a third of the 25 utilities while 113 were found less than a third of the utilities.

Previous USGS reports have documented pesticides and fertilizers in U.S. streams and drinking water. Herbicides like atrazine, metolachlor, and simizine are among those often found in surface waters of 186 rivers and streams sampled by USGS since the early 1990s, and are highly correlated with the presence of upstream wastewater sources or upstream agricultural and urban land use.  Indeed, very little has changed within the last five years.

However, this study represents one of the few that documents how common emerging contaminants are in drinking water. Only four of the chemicals detected —the metal strontium, the herbicide metolachlor, PFOS and PFOA— are now on EPA’s list of chemicals under consideration for inclusion in drinking water standards. They plan to finalize their decision for at least five contaminants on the list sometime next year.

“We’re hoping through this work the EPA will do a much more intensive contaminant candidate list and develop new methods and requirements for drinking water plants,” said USGS scientist Edward Furlong to Environmental Health News.

Unfortunately, regulations that protect U.S. waterways from chemical contamination, including contamination from pesticides, have been attacked by industry groups and Congress. Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), pesticide users who spray over waterways must have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. This requirement follows a 2009 federal appeals court ruling in National Cotton Council v. EPA, and simply lets authorities know what is sprayed and when it is sprayed, so that the public may know what chemicals are used in their waterways.  However, since the inaction of the NPDES permit requirement, in 2011, several pieces of legislation have been introduced in Congress that would eliminate these regulations.

In October, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators led by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., began urging Farm Bill conference committee members to eliminate the permitting requirements, continuing the myth that permits burden farmers and applicators, though fees can be as low as $25 for the permit, and states that oversee the permitting program stand to collect this revenue. For more information, read Clearing up the Confusion Surrounding the New NPDES General Permit.

Learn more about the health of our nation’s streams, from water quality surveys to peer-reviewed research relating the impact of pesticides on human health and the environment. Read Pesticides in My Drinking Water? Individual precautionary measures and community action for information on how to get involved. To keep up-to-date on Congressional and government agency actions, sign-up for Beyond Pesticides’ action alerts and visit our Threatened Waters page.

Source: Environmental Health News

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

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12
Dec

Organic Milk Healthier for the Heart

(Beyond Pesticides, December 12, 2013) Milk lovers everywhere may feel a little less guilty the next time they indulge in that usually taboo glass of creamy, whole milk —as long as it is organic, that is. A new study, Organic Production Enhances Milk Nutritional Quality by Shifting Fatty Acid Composition: A United States–Wide, 18-Month Study, conducted by Charles M. Benbrook, Ph.D. and other researchers from Washington State University found that organically produced milk provides significantly more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced milk.

The study looked at 384 samples of organic and conventional milk from across the country spanning an 18-month period of time (between 2011 and 2012) and examined the breakdown of omega-6 fatty acids as compared to omega-3 fatty acids within each sample. The results show that although the total amount of fat was almost the same, the organic milk contained 62 percent more omega-3 fatty acids and 25 percent fewer omega-6s.

Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for healthy blood-clotting function and brain cell development and performance, among other essential bodily functions. Studies have linked omega-3 consumption to decreased risks of heart disease and other conditions, including cancers and Alzheimer’s.

Omega-6 fatty acids are also necessary and beneficial to the human body. Consumption of omerga-6 fatty acids, however, faces rising concerns over the now-challenged dietary assumption that all plant-based, polyunsaturated fats are created equal. For example, according to one clinical investigator at the National Institutes of Health (interviewed by Time Magazine), there has been some evidence to suggest that omega-6 fatty acids may trigger inflammation, a condition that is linked to an increased risk of heart problems, while omega-3 fatty acids, found in deepwater fish like salmon, tend to inhibit inflammatory reactions.

This is not the first time that a study concerning organic milk of this nature has been conducted. In 2009, researchers from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom reached similar conclusions, albeit based on a smaller sample size.

Why is organic milk different?

So what makes organic milk different than conventional? Organic milk production standards, recently strengthened in 2010, require cows to graze on pasture for the full length of the grazing season, a period of time that must last at least 120 days. Additionally, 30 percent of an organic dairy cow’s food must come from the pasture. The effects of the organic standards translate into a diet based on grass, not grain. While it may seem obvious to require that a cow be allowed to feed and roam in a pasture eating grass, the unfortunate truth is that conventional dairy cows are often fed a diet exclusively based on grain. And it is the grass that makes the difference in the presence of omega-3s.

It’s Not Just Your Heart

While some supporters and consumers of organic produce may feel a small amount of vindication upon hearing the reports of this most recent study, many will just add it to the long list of the reasons why they support organic food production over conventional.

Better nutrition is wonderful, but as any organic supporter and consumer understands, the practices and standards that separate organic and conventional go far beyond providing more omega-3 fatty acids. Buying organic supports an entire system that is conscious of the health of people, animals, and the environment. From reduced exposure to pesticides for farmworkers to bans on unnecessary and dangerous uses of antibiotics in livestock feed, choosing organic means supporting the overall well-being and health of not only yourself and family, but everyone around you.

To learn more about why it is critical to continue to support organic food production and maintain the integrity of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic label, please visit our Keep Organic Strong webpage.

Sources: Washington Post, National Public Radio, The New York Times

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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11
Dec

Maui Third Hawaiian Island to Consider Restricting Pesticides and GMOs

(Beyond Pesticides, December 11, 2013) Following the counties of Kaua’i and Hawaii, Maui Council Member Elle Cochran has introduced legislation (full text available here) that will require disclosure of pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture. In addition, the bill requires buffer zones and a health impact study.

The Council Member feels it is important to make permanent a voluntary agreement reached between the Mayor of Maui and Monsanto, according the Associated Press. Monsanto, which has written on similar legislation in the other Hawaii counties, maintains that, “Monsanto is committed to being a good neighbor and responsible business. We have very strict policies and practices in place to ensure we meet all state and federal laws, operate in a responsible and safe manner.” The Maui Farm Bureau has said that these technologies are necessary to grow food for a growing population.

Kauai made history in Hawaii and worldwide in November when it enacted a law to force public disclosure of large scale production of experimental genetically engineered organisms and pesticide use. Using the authority vested in local political subdivisions by the state’s constitution, the law seeks to “to establish provisions to inform the public, and protect the public from any direct, indirect, or cumulative negative impacts on the health and the natural environment of the people and place of the County of Kaua‘i, by governing the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms.” The Council, with an outpouring of community support, voted 5-2 to override the Mayor’s veto of Bill 2491, introduced by Council Member Gary Hooser. The bill was originally passed by the Council on October 16, 2013 by a 6-1 vote. For more details on the legislation, see GE Restrictions Become Law, Kauai Council Overrides Mayor’s Veto.

On December 5, 2013, Mayor Billy Kenoi signed into law a bill Bill 113, which was introduced by Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, that bans new open growing of GMOs in Hawaii County, the Big Island. The measure passed the Council on November 19. In a letter sent with the signing of the bill, Mayor Kenoi said, according to bigislandnow.com, “Our community has a deep connection and respect for our land, and we all understand we must protect our island and preserve our precious natural resources. . .We are determined to do what is right for the land because this place is unlike any other in the world. . . “With this new ordinance we are conveying that instead of global agribusiness corporations, we want to encourage and support community-based farming and ranching.”

Council Member Brenda Ford had introduced legislation to ban all transgenic crops on the Big Island. It failed in committee. The bill that ultimately passed contains an emergency exemption for insects and diseases that threaten a crop. The exception requires a Council vote after a determination that there are no viable alternatives. Much of the papaya grown on the island is genetically modified to resist the ringspot virus. However, Kaua’i is home to a larger number of genetically engineered crops than the Big Island.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Associated Press, bigislandnow.com

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10
Dec

Flight Attendant Links Airline Insecticide Use to His Parkinson’s

(Beyond Pesticides, December 10, 2013) A former steward for Australian-based Quantas airlines is suing the Australian government claiming that frequent insecticide use in airplane cabins resulted in his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. Australia is among 49 countries that require pesticide spraying on some or all flights. Pesticide use on flights into the United States is not required, but is permitted under international law. (See here for a breakdown of pesticide use in American-based airlines, and here for information from the U.S. Department of Transportation on pesticide use in aircrafts.)

airline pesticide useBrett Vollus, former Quantas airline steward, worked for the company for 27 years until this past May when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and a malignant brain tumor. “He [my doctor] asked me what I did for living and when I told him he just nodded and said: ‘Another one, I am seeing a lot of you’,” Mr. Vollus said to The Australian. “This is a nightmare that has ruined my life. I am very keen to start a legal action and if it can help others I am happy to lead the way.”

This case puts an international spotlight on growing evidence that pesticide use is linked to Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s expert Professor Kay Double, MD, from the University of Sydney’s Medical School remarked, “Certainly there is epidemiological evidence that the exposure to the chemicals in pesticides is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. It is actually the number of times you are exposed and the amount you are exposed which increases the risk.”

Beyond Pesticides has worked to increase public awareness of the link between pesticide use and Parkinson’s disease through the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database, which currently features over 60 peer-reviewed studies that have researched the pesticides-Parkinson’s connection.  Late last month a study revealed that individuals with a genetic mutation were at increased risk of Parkinson’s disease if they were also exposed to low doses of pesticides. A new study in the journal Cell also provides firm evidence linking pesticides to Parkinson’s disease, as the researchers used pesticides to find the mechanisms by which the disease manifests itself.

“The fact that flight attendants were exposed in a very contained area, have a total exposure and are then left breathing the residual chemicals may have a role to play in their eventual diagnosis,” said Dr. Double. “We do know there are a number of these herbicides and pesticides that do damage to particular cells which leads to Parkinson’s disease.”

The most widely used pesticides for aircraft cabins are synthetic pyrethroids, particularly the chemicals d-phenothrin or permethrin. Multiple studies have revealed a link between permethrin and Parkinson’s disease. The pesticide has been shown to affect dopamine transport in the brain, as up-regulation (increased cellular response) of permethrin may increase the susceptibility of dopamine neurons to toxic insult, according to a 2006 study out of Emory University titled “Pyrethroid pesticide-induced alterations in dopamine transporter function.”A 2003 study from Virginia Tech researchers, titled “Differential up-regulation of striatal dopamine transporter and α-synuclein by the pyrethroid insecticide permethrin” found that permethrin-based insecticides cause a number of chemical events in the brain that could eventually lead to Parkinson’s disease, particularly for individuals with a genetic predisposition or those who have had previous exposure to neurotoxins. Permethrin may also lead to an overproduction of a-synuclein proteins, which can accumulate in the brain and form Lewy bodies, fibrous, abnormal tangles of proteins present in the brains of those with Parkinson’s.

While the Australian Department of Health asserts that spraying is important to preventing the spread of disease, and “The WHO has found no evidence that disinsection [pesticide] sprays, when used according to their guidelines and manufacturers’ instructions, are harmful to human health,” evidence shows that alternatives methods to control pests in airplanes without pesticides are effective, and don’t carry the risks of pesticides. One method is called the “air curtain,” where air curtains direct air currents at doorways to exclude pests. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has affirmed that this is an effective method at preventing pests from entering an aircraft.

In the U.S., a group in New Mexico, the Parkinson’s Disease Support Group of New Mexico, recently helped get House Memorial 42 passed through the state’s legislature. This memorial requests that studies be conducted regarding the impact of pesticides on citizens’ health, with particular focus on investigating the link between pesticides and Parkinson’s. The support group would like to see the action implemented in four phases:

  1. To create a task force reporting to the NMDH (New Mexico Department of Health) investigating the links between pesticides and Parkinson’s;
  2. For the task force to promote good health over any other consideration;
  3. To invite public participation to benefit the health of all New Mexicans; and
  4. To advocate for these recommendations at both the state and federal level through public information campaigns to reduce household use of pesticides, promoting Integrated Pest Management (IPM) & Sustainable Agriculture, carry out statewide epidemiology research and finally advocating for the EPA to expand its evaluation of pesticides to include “chronic low-level” exposure for toxicity.

As the connection between Parkinson’s and pesticide use becomes increasingly clear, pressure will continue to build for practices and methods that exclude pests without the use of hazardous chemicals. Whether in airplanes, farms, gardens, lawns, waterways, inside one’s own home, or the numerous other places where pesticides are often used, there are non-toxic and least-toxic alternatives that do not necessitate the use of hazardous chemicals. For more information on link between pesticides and Parkinson’s, see our Pesticide Induced Diseases Database, or read our 2008 Pesticides and You article “Pesticides Trigger Parkinson’s Disease.”

Source and Image Source: The Austrailian

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09
Dec

The Decline of Turtle Doves Tied to Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, December 9, 2013) Unless regulators take action, one of the gifts in the lyrics to “Twelve Days of Christmas,” the turtle dove, may become extinct. The dove has experienced major population decline in England over the past 20 years, due in significant part to the destruction of turtle dove habitat and food sources from increasing herbicide use in English agriculture. Other species, such as Monarch butterflies and other pollinators around the world, are also experiencing similar loses of habitat and food sources through an increase in herbicide use. These increasing rates of population decline in wild species underscore the problem that chemical-intensive agriculture plays in the degradation of natural habitats.

According to a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, “The turtle dove is the fastest declining bird in the country [England] and within ten years we could lose this icon of the British countryside completely.” Turtle doves in the United Kingdom are found in just a few areas of Southern England and migrate during the winter toward Africa. Turtle doves are obligate granivors, feeding predominantly on seeds of certain arable weeds form farm countryside, such as fumitory, clover and vetch. However, increased herbicide use in England has decimated vegetation (considered “weeds”) that turtle doves have traditionally eaten. In the 1960’s, arable weeds, including fumitory and chickweed, made up more than 75% of the adult diet, but parents are now heavily reliant on cultivated wheat and oilseed corps. The number of breeding pairs in the UK is thought to have dropped this year to a record low of bellow 14,000, making an 84% drop since 1995. This problem is now compounded by the cold and damp summer of 2012 hampered the bird’s efforts to feed their chicks as well as keeping them warm.

Serious losses in the Monarch butterfly population have been tied to the expansion of genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans production. Historically, for butterflies in the U.S., their key source of food, milkweed, was typically found in several key states where the butterfly feeds and breeds: Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, parts of Ohio, and the eastern Dakotas. But now fields have been planted with more than 120 million acres of corn and soybeans genetically engineered to be tolerant to glyphosate (Roundup), and many other herbicides, resulting in milkweed destruction in and around agricultural fields. According to the researchers, the utilization of these GE crops has all but eliminated milkweeds from these fields, thus eliminating the butterfly’s source of food. A rapid expansion of farmland —more than 25 million new acres in the United States since 2007— has eaten away grasslands and conservation reserves that supplied the Monarchs with milkweed. Milkweed was once widespread throughout the U.S., but is considered a nuisance weed by farmers throughout the Midwest.

Recently, the New York Times published an analysis of the decline and near absence of Monarch butterflies at their end migration destination in the mountains of Mexico this fall. This report highlights that the use of Roundup on GE herbicide-resistant crops has devastated Monarch habitat by nearly eliminating milkweed from rural agricultural landscapes.

A 2011 decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fully deregulate GE alfalfa seed will certainly have an impact on bee populations that are essential for the pollination of the alfalfa seed crop. This deregulation is also troubling because alfalfa seed crops is a pollinated crop and there is a high possibility of cross pollination between GE and organic production. Alfalfa is the key feedstock for the dairy industry. GE contamination will cause organic dairies to lose their source of organic feed, a requirement for organic dairy, including milk and yogurt products. Earlier in September, GE alfalfa was confirmed to have contaminated non-GE alfalfa in Washington State. According to the Organic Seed Alliance, “Although both the organic and biotechnology industries acknowledge that transgenic material is moving into fields and markets where it is not allowed or wanted, little has been done to address the problem through regulatory processes and enforcement. No new law has been created to address this novel technology.”

GE alfalfa designed to be resistant to herbicides is unnecessary. USDA data shows that 90% of all the alfalfa planted by farmers in the U.S. was previously grown without the use of any herbicides, which the GE alfalfa is engineered to withstand. Due to the planting of GE alfalfa, USDA estimates that up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides will be released into the environment each year which could lead to the destruction of habitat for wildlife. In discussions with EPA, Beyond Pesticides has told the agency that because of the adverse impact that herbicides are expected to have on bees in GE alfalfa seed production, and given its extremely limited benefit to alfalfa productivity, it should prohibit herbicide use in GE alfalfa production. Beyond Pesticides has noted that EPA’s failure to fully consider direct and secondary impacts of pesticides on bees and beneficial insect habitat, associated with increasing and  unnecessary herbicide use in genetically engineered alfalfa, is leading to escalating ecological destruction.

Beyond Pesticides, along with other environmental and farming organizations, filed a suit in March of 2011 challenging the agency’s deregulation of the GE alfalfa. The suit, Center for Food Safety, et al., v. Vilsack, et al., argues that the agency’s deregulation of Roundup Ready alfalfa is unlawful, and tried to prevent any further planting of the engineered crop. However, in 2012, a U.S. District Judge in San Francisco issued a ruling that USDA’s decision to deregulate GE alfalfa was not unlawful.

The protection of  organic integrity and growth of uncontaminated organic production, which must become a national and international priority, is perhaps the central and most effective strategy for protecting threatened species like bees, butterflies, and birds, including turtle doves. Beyond Pesticides encourages consumers to think about the big picture, and support a wider shift toward organic practices through their purchases. Buying organic is a simple move that makes a big difference in preventing unnecessary contamination to themselves, the environment, and the loss of wild habitat. For more information on the chemicals used on everyday conventional produce, see the Eating With a Conscience website. And for more information on why organic is the right path for the future of agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture webpage.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Daily Mail

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06
Dec

Gene Mutation Increases Risk of Parkinson’s Disease from Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, December 6, 2013) In a new study exploring gene-environment interactions, researchers find that individuals with a genetic mutation linked to Parkinson’s disease are more likely to develop the neurodegenerative disease if they are exposed to pesticides. The study, Isogenic Human iPSC Parkinson’s Model Shows Nitrosative Stress-Induced Dysfunction in MEF 2-PGC1α Transcription, identifies the molecule that protects neurons from pesticides, ties genetic mutation to pesticide exposure, and demonstrates that low dose exposure can cause Parkinson’s disease.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, supports previous epidemiological and animal studies that demonstrate the link between pesticide exposure and neurological damage, using human stem cells as a model.

“For the first time, we have used human stem cells derived from Parkinson’s disease patients to show that a genetic mutation combined with exposure to pesticides creates a ‘double hit’ scenario, producing free radicals in neurons that disable specific molecular pathways that cause nerve-cell death,” says lead author Stuart Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director at the Sanford-Burnham’s Medical Research Institute.

Using skin cells from Parkinson’s patient who already possess the genetic mutation linked to the disease, researchers transformed them into human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) and corrected for the mutation in half the cells. Then, researchers transformed these hiPSCs into nerve cells that are damaged by Parkinson’s disease, called A9 dopamine neurons, and control for movement and coordination.

Researchers then exposed these nerve cells to pesticides typical in conventional agricultural areas in the U.S.: “Exposing both normal and mutant neurons to pesticides –including paraquat, maneb, or rotenone– created excessive free radicals in cells with the mutation, causing damage to dopamine-containing neurons that led to cell death,” said coauthor Frank Soldner, M.D., and research scientist.

Notably, researchers also explored the impact of low-doses of pesticides on cells predisposed to Parkinson’s disease. “In fact, we observed the detrimental effects of these pesticides with short exposure to doses well below EPA-accepted levels,” said coauthor Scott Ryan, PhD. and researcher at the Sanford-Burnham’s Medical Research Institute.

The study adds to the increasing body of research surrounding pesticide-induced diseases and raises concerns on how exposures interact with genetic predispositions causing the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Amyotrophic lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Through the Pesticide Induced Diseases Database (PIDD), Beyond Pesticides keeps track of the most recent studies related to pesticide exposure. For more information on the multiple harms pesticides can cause, see our PIDD pages on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and other diseases.

Studies such as these highlight the importance of buying, growing, and supporting organic. Consumer choices encourage the protection of the people who help put food on our table every day by purchasing organic. By buying organic, you support an agricultural system that does not permit the application of dangerous pesticides. For more information on how organic is the right choice for both consumers and the farmworkers that grow our food, see Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture.

Sources: Science Daily, Cell

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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05
Dec

House Farm Bill Provision Would Make Eating Fish More Dangerous

(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2013) It’s farm bill debate time—again. And as conferee members saddle up to the negotiation table to attempt yet another meeting of the minds before the winter recess, most of the public watching and waiting for word on a resolution are focused on issues like food stamps and milk.Mother and son fishing

What most are not waiting for and has not been at the forefront of the media and public discussion concerning the pending farm bill negotiations are the small but dangerous provisions of the House bill concerning the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (expanded and overhauled as the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate pesticides used near, over, and in water. It should be.

Seeking to nullify the Sixth Circuit’s ruling in National Cotton Council v. EPA and the resulting general permit, sections 12323 and 100013 amend CWA to exclude pesticides from the law’s standards and its permitting requirements. Known as the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), CWA requires all point sources, which are discernible and discreet conveyances, to obtain either individual or general permits. Whether a point source must obtain an individual or general permit depends on the size of the point source and type of activity producing the pollutants. Regardless of whether it is a general permit or individual permit, an entity cannot pollute without a permit and in most cases can only permit in the amounts (called effluent limitations) and ways prescribed in the permit.

Separate, but inextricably linked to the NPDES program, are CWA’s water quality standards, under which states are responsible for designating waterbody uses (such as swimmable or fishable) and setting criteria to protect those uses. If a water body fails to meet the established criteria for its use, then it is deemed impaired and the states, or EPA, if the state fails to act, must establish a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a kind of pollutant diet. The system comes full circle in that impaired waters with TMDLs can be integrated into the NPDES permits.

Neither CWA nor the NPDES program are perfect, but one need look no further than the fish we eat to understand the important role that this critical environmental framework plays in limiting human exposure to pesticides and other toxins.

CWA, Fish, and the Pesticide Connection

In the recently released Environmental Health Perspectives’ article, Meeting the Needs of the People: Fish Consumption Rates in the Pacific Northwest, the complexities of the CWA, its NPDES progam, and its water quality standards criteria are laid out in a disturbing tale of environmental justice and failing bureaucracies.

In short, Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest eat a lot of fish. It’s part of their culture and a way of life preserved in their legal and tribal rights, but they are facing increasing health risks due to the toxic chemicals in those fish. The solution to this problem seems fairly straight-forward: reduce the toxins in the water so that the levels in the fish are safe to eat. It’s a solution envisioned by CWA and its web of regulatory protections, however, as the article explains, “One of the variables used to calculate ambient water quality criteria is fish consumption rate.”

While the takeaway from the article is somewhat defeating and shows the far-reaching weaknesses of existing risk assessment methodologies, the underpinnings of the article —the connection between a water body’s water quality criteria, an entities NPDES permit, and the safety of the fish we put in our mouths— cannot be dismissed as irrelevant tales of woe. Whether the system is functioning perfectly or not, the point is that a system exists that contemplates the risks inherent to consuming toxin-laced fish and has the potential to protect the general consuming public.

From Fish Back to the Farm Bill

What does not have this ability is the Federal, Insecticide, Rodenticide, and Fungicide Act (FIFRA). It is this federal framework, however, on which supporters of the House provision hang their hats and point to as the already-in-place protective standard capable of preventing water pollution from pesticides. Beyond Pesticides has debunked this argument in more ways than one. Other environmental advocacy groups have also pointed out that the sky has not fallen since EPA’s implementation of the general pesticide permit under CWA.

The Clean Water Act is intended to ensure that every community, from tribe to urban neighborhood, has the right to enjoy fishable and swimmable bodies of water. There is a lot of work still to be done to improve the nation’s waters and protect the health of people dependent on those waters.  Without the Clean Water Act, there are no common sense backstops or enforcement mechanisms for reducing direct applications of pesticides to waterways. It may not be perfect, but it is better than nothing, which would be the effect of the House farm bill. We can’t afford to lose these protections.

Tell your Senators to oppose any efforts to undermine the Clean Water Act.

For more information, read our factsheet, Clearing up the Confusion Surrounding the New NPDES General Permit and visit our Threatened Waters page.

Sources:  Environmental Health Perspectives, Natural Resources Defense Council, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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